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History of Nature and Nurture

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Essay title: History of Nature and Nurture


Nature vs. nurture has been discussed by philosophers in the past and by scientists most recently. Philosophers such as Plato argued that all knowledge was inherited through your parent and when you were told something you didn’t learn it you were just reminded of it. Aristotle however argued that all humans were born with a blank slate and built on it with influence from there environment. In the 1700’s the empiricists and the internalists took over the argument. They fought through letters explaining there point of views and denouncing the others. This leads to Pavlov coming up with the idea of behaviorism in the early 1900‘s. Behaviorism became the new wave of Psychology and influenced a lean towards the nurture side. It was not effectively argued against until 1928 when Watson published his book. This opened up the floodgates for environmental influences studies. Soon the idea of nurture was the popular excuse for behavior. Studies using animals were the most popular was in which scientists used to prove a theory, or disprove a theory. The newest studies use human twins to prove nature vs. nurture.

An age-old question has been asked for generations before us. What is the reasons behind the development of human behavior? There have been many theories formulated to explain why humans behave the way they do. Explanations vary from demonology to magnetic fluids controlling people’s behaviors. Over time, two theories have remained

popular in academic fields such as philosophy and psychology. The surviving theories for behavior stem from physiological and sociological explanations. However, the two explanations have not always been compatible with each other. The famous nature vs. nurture debate over human behavior resulted from conflicting views between proponents of the physiological (nature) and sociological (nurture) explanations. Throughout history, research has swayed popularity back and forth between the theories. Yet, theorists have broken down the line separating nature and nurture. Today, people us both explanations in research to advance the knowledge of human behavior.

Thousands of years before the field of psychology, philosophers pondered on

human behavior. As early as 350 BC, such philosophers as Plato and Aristotle

tried to understand behavior. The question of nature or nurture as the primary

drive can be traced to these times. Plato believed behavior and knowledge was

due to innate factors. Author Fiona Cowie states, "The claim that the character

of our mental furniture is to a large extent internally rather than

environmentally determined found its first substantive defense in the works of

Plato..." (Cowie, 1999, p. 3). Plato theorized, and Descartes later agreed, that

all knowledge is present at birth. Plato also believed that the environment

played a part in human processes, but he thought it had an unique role. He

believed the environment did not teach people anything new, but its purpose was

to remind people of information they already knew (Cowie, 1999). Although

Plato’s views are not supported today, he laid the groundwork for other

researchers to follow.

On the other hand, philosopher Aristotle theorized a different idea about human

behavior. He presented the idea that humans are born into the world with a

"blank slate" and people’s behavior and thoughts are due to experience

(Ashcraft, 1998). His tabula rasa explanation believed that the environment and

experience were the important influences in human behavior. Unlike Plato,

Aristotle hypothesized that humans were not born with knowledge, but they

acquire it through experience (Ashcraft, 1998). Aristotle’s idea of the tabula

rasa is not believed today. Nevertheless, his belief that the environment was a

vital factor in behavior influenced many empiricists throughout history.

During the late 1700s, the nature vs.

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